Cooking With Taiwanese Memory: The Famous Tatung Electric Pot

Cooking With Taiwanese Memory: The Famous Tatung Electric Pot
Photo Credit: Blowing Puffer FishCC BY- 2.0

What you need to know

The pot has accompanied Taiwanese families and students abroad for more than a half century.

After a recent visit to Taiwan, Japanese columnist Doyagao guchi (小口 覺) tried to bring the nation's most popular “cooking assistant” — the ubiquitous Tatung electric pot — back to Japan. But as he was going through airport security, he was accused of carrying a dangerous item.

In an article, Doyagao observes that the electric pot is considered “the national pot” in Taiwan and is very common in households. However, it is uncommon for Japanese to buy electrical products abroad, he says. Notwithstanding his bruch with security, Doyagao believes the Tatung electric pot is very useful, and he hopes Japanese citizens could better appreciate such Taiwanese products.

A Japan-Taiwan connection?

Since its introduction in 1960, the Tatung electric pot has been widely used in Taiwan (its market share once reached 95%). Although new brands of cooking pots have been released into the market since, many Taiwanese still prefer the Tatung pot for its cheap price and convenience, as very little preparation and cleanup are necessary.

The pot was originally designed to control cooking time. Designers had discovered that cooking at 98 degrees Celsius for a 20-minute period made the best rice. They therefore modified the design so that the pot would turn off automatically when the rice was thoroughly cooked.

According to Designsurfing, a Facebook page discussing branding, art and industrial designs in Taiwan and Japan, the Tatung electric pot is a creation of both Taiwanese and Japanese.

In 1955, Toshiba Corporation developed the ER-4 electric pot, which first applied the "automatic switch” design. Five years later, Tatung Company launched the Tatung electric pot in Taiwan.

Chin Hsien-yu (秦先玉), assistant professor of humanities and social science at the National Yang-Ming University, says that developers of the Tatung electric pot cooperated with Toshiba Corporation and received substantial technical assistance. Meanwhile, the production line in Taiwan at the time was also strong enough to support the huge market need.

Simple procedure, food from home

Many people who live abroad usually bring a Tatung pot with them.

Wendy Garratt, a Taiwanese whose family moved to New Zealand a decade ago, told The News Lens International that most Taiwanese — and some Chinese — bring a Tatung electric pot with them so they can cook Taiwanese food after emigrating. Garratt herself even brought one with her when she was studying in Auckland.

“I found it convenient to cook in the dorm with the pot. I could make simple dishes that resemble those I had at home,” she says.

Garratt adds that some New Zealanders have also bought the pots, “because they came to our house and found it quite useful.”

Emily Chang, who currently lives in the U.S., recounts her experiences using the pot. Among other things, she says there is no need to worry that the food will be burned. Moreover, the pot can not only cook rice, but also vegetables, which other cooking tools cannot do.

"All I need to do is throw the ingredients in, add some water, press the button, and then wait for it to be cooked," she says.